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Lessons learned from the 10-year Census of Marine Life to be presented

What made the Census of Marine Life, a 10-year scientific initiative to assess and explain the diversity, distribution, and abundance of life in the global ocean, succeed when similar efforts have failed? This will be one of the questions addressed by Dr. David Penman, former Chair of the Governing Board of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, during a briefing on "Lessons Learned from the Census of Marine Life." The briefing will be at the Consortium for Ocean Leadership on May 19 from 9:00-10:30 am.

Penman has spent the past year assessing the Census of Marine Life, a $650 million program that involved 2,700 scientists, from 80 nations and 640 institutions, who spent 9,000 days at sea on more than 540 expeditions, plus countless days in labs and archives. One of the largest scientific collaborations ever conducted, the Census reported its findings in October 2010 and formally ended at the end of last year. At the request of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a primary Census funder, Penman undertook an external, independent review of the performance of the Census. During this review, he studied how the scientists worked together and the factors that helped or impeded such large-scale, collaborative effort. Due to the broad nature of the "lessons learned," they have a direct relevance to any research program, regardless of the discipline, funding source, or lead agency/organization.

"In many ways, the Census of Marine Life serves as a model for the design and governance of future large-scale, collaborative science projects," Penman said. "It overcame early skepticism and bridged political, cultural, language, and time zone differences to successfully create the first baseline of global marine life against which future change can be measured. It did so on time, within budget, and added substantially to what is known about life in the global ocean."

During his presentation, Penman will review what worked, what did not, and will identify areas that could have been improved upon. Among the topics he will cover are specific recommendations for governance roles and responsibilities, the critical role of a program office, the value of data sharing and challenges of data assimilation, tools for coordination and collaboration, and the role of public awareness in a program's overall success.


Contact: Darlene Trew Crist
Census of Marine Life

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